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49er great adds to Jazzercise celebration

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Old friend Steve Young of San Francisco 49ers fame stopped by to help Jazzercise instructor Barbara Peterson celebrate 26 years of high-energy aerobics and good times.

After 26 years of teaching Jazzercise, Barbara Peterson still has maximum jump. It's hard to imagine anyone putting more jazz into Jazzercise.

Peterson, a longtime Los Altos Hills resident, celebrated her 26th Jazzercise anniversary Saturday with a crowd of her aerobics students and other admirers at the Palo Alto Elks Lodge. Football Hall-of-Famer Steve Young, a former Peterson neighbor, came by to add to the festivities.

Borrowing Peterson's microphone, Young said, "I used to make my living getting beat up, but now I'm doing what I can to live as long as I can. That's what you are doing here, learning how to be healthy for as long as possible."

Young brought his baby daughter, Summer, and sons Jackson, 3, and Braedon, 5. When asked if he wanted help with the baby carriage, he said, "No, this is what I do all day."

Peterson met Young years ago when he stopped by her childrens' lemonade stand on La Loma Drive, where he used to live (he now lives in Palo Alto). He volunteered to help her raise funds for breast cancer research. In addition to caring for his own children, Young works to help children who face significant physical, emotional and financial challenges (See foreveryoung.org for more information).

Young's visit added to the already high energy in the class. More than 60 students and collaborators helped Peterson celebrate 26 successful years of teaching Jazzercise.

Every Peterson class is an energy extravaganza. To the tune of "Hips Don't Lie," and a compilation of other rocking hits, Peterson moves her bones and gets her ballroom-filling class to move with her. Students-who comprise a variety of ages, genders, and races-dance to loud music, following Peterson's lead.

"Here we go! Yeah Baby! Let me hear you say 'Go!' Bring it up. Bring it up. Bring it up! Does that feel good?" The students appear to be having fun while breaking a sweat. Dancing is followed by mat-weight work and stretching.

After the anniversary workout, the celebration continued with a breakfast and award ceremony. Los Altos resident Lulu Ruis, who has been studying Jazzercise with Barbara Peterson for 14 years, received a Fitness Award at the 26th anniversary celebration.

Another long-time student, Los Altos resident Karen Wiener, started coming to the class after sitting next to Peterson watching a disappointing water polo loss. When Wiener voiced her stress, Peterson said, "You should try Jazzercise." The mind-body connection is a running theme in the class: exercise can relieve stress. Now Wiener has been coming for years and says, "I always feel better."

Wiener is motivated by the fact that during class Peterson will say, "Aren't you glad you aren't at home thinking about coming?"

Los Altos Hills resident Marlene Daniels, who has been taking the class for 22 years, says, "I can't live without it."

Clearly loving the class, Peterson says, "It let's me be a kid again. The class always gets me up, and gets my endorphins going." She says that students sometimes come in with tears welling, then walk out thinking. "Was I down?"

She often says, "We are here to fight the number one killer," then asks the class to shout out what they think that is. Answers include heart disease, PMS, stress, depression, osteoporosis, insomnia, and cancer. Peterson says, "We are each other's psychologists." Cancer survivors make up a significant, and honored, segment of the class.

Peterson started teaching her classes at The Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, then taught at Cubberly and moved to the Elk's Lodge when Cubberly became unavailable.

Jazzercise is the most widely taught dance-fitness program in the world with an international network of more than 5,800 franchised instructors who teach hundreds of thousands of participants each year. Emphasis is placed on cardio, stretch, and strength. If you like to dance, and don't mind someone directing your moves, Jazzercise can be a lot of fun, as well as a terrific workout.

Finding the right exercise teacher is like finding the right doctor-you know you have the right person when you leave feeling better than when you went in. You can ask for advice from you friends and relatives, but different people have different tastes; you might not like the person your sister swears by. Clearly, Peterson has a style that a lot of people like, a style that inspires students to follow her for decades.

Peterson's class, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:40 to 6:50 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 to 10:20 a.m., costs $10 for drop-in, or $40 for unlimited classes per month. Contact 948-8484 for more information.

Only her relatives are allowed to call her "Barbie," and not in public, perhaps because the resemblance is so striking. Peterson has the long legs, slim body, cute nose, wide smile, and big blue eyes of a Barbie doll. But it is hard to imagine a Barbie doll being able to move like that.

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